Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth has called on sport and physical activity providers to follow the lead of other sectors and open their data – in order to make it easier for people to get active.
The appeal follows a study by ComRes – commissioned by Sport England – which found that people find it "twice as easy" to order takeaway food online than to book a sports session or fitness class.
The survey, of 1,815 adults living in England, showed that while ordering a takeaway and booking a holiday, taxi, or concert ticket have been made easy, people find it hard to search for physical activities online.
Almost a quarter of adults find it easy to book a holiday online and a majority say the same for ordering a takeaway (68 per cent), while just 34 per cent say it's easy to book sport or fitness classes online.
"There is a significant prize to be won here if the sport and physical activity sector seizes the opportunity to embrace digital innovation and open up their data," Hollingsworth said.
"Our survey shows that at the moment there are too many barriers to entry. So, this is about giving the public the choice to find sport and physical activity in a way that meets the expectations they have in all other aspects of their lives.
"But it is also about creating the conditions for brilliant, creative start-ups and innovators across England to come up with big digital ideas and solutions that are as diverse as the needs of the public."
To support his call for the sector to innovate, Sport England is awarding a further £1.5m of National Lottery funding to the Open Data Institute (ODI).
The ODI, an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 2012 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, offers training, research and strategic advice for organisations looking to explore the possibilities of data.
In November 2016 they launched OpenActive, which has now seen 27 organisations – including leisure centre operator GLL, British Cycling and Our Parks – publish their data, resulting in more than 170,000 physical activity sessions a month being made available online.
The £1.5m will help the ODI to continue their work in the sport and physical activity sector, which has seen OpenActive data used by 10 startups that we mentored and are working on innovative tech solutions to help people get active.
ukactive Acting CEO Huw Edwards said “We support the Government and Sport England’s ambitions to make sport and physical activity more accessible to all.
“It is crucial to recognise the physical activity sector’s integral role in the ODI, given the findings of the latest Active Lives Survey which showed that ukactive’s members are the backbone of an active nation.
“We are ready to work with government and Sport England on this agenda, uniting the sector in our mission to get more people more active, more often.
“This partnership with Government must also see it fully support our sector to flourish and fulfil its potential in every area of public life.”
Hollingsworth added: “This is a real tipping point moment.
"Now is the time for the whole sector to collaborate to reach millions more people, remove the barriers they face and supercharge the number of people getting active in England for the health of our nation.”
Resource: Health Club Management